Surrendered Too Soon

Then the Lord closed the door.
Genesis 7:16White Flag

The high price of love is yearning, and the stress which goes with it.

Agape love means wanting what God wants for the person you love. You want him to be safe in Him; you want her to be all she can be in Him; you want them to live under His blessing and protection.

That’s great, provided they, too, want the same. When they don’t, your unsatisfied yearning gives you a taste of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, lamenting the fact they refused all He offered. (Matthew 23:37) So now you wait, like the prodigal’s Dad, thinking, praying, worrying. Love hurts.

Sometimes the hurt makes us want to rewrite truth, telling ourselves that perhaps our loved one’s error isn’t so bad after all – maybe it’s not even an error!

So the child who doesn’t believe may not really be in eternal danger because hey, there may be other ways to God. Or the friend embracing a sin or a heresy or both may not be so wrong, and even if they are, that may not be so bad, and so on. Minimizing or revising truth is a lethal exercise, but it can lessen the
emotional pain.

Or we can make the mistake of trying to force truth, imposing it like an uninvited straitjacket. Knowing someone’s either lost or in serious sin can prompt us to not be satisfied loving them and prayerfully seeking ways to speak the right truth at the right time. Instead, we might resort to carnal means of conversion, arguing with them whenever we see them, pressuring them, even shunning or shaming them.

The attempt to override someone else’s free will is an exhausting, fruitless effort. If you’ve never tried it, please trust me on this, and don’t.

Yet another equally wrong temptation is the temptation to surrender too soon. Plenty of folks these days are plagued with it; plenty are caving to it. Let’s look a little more closely at this one.

Noah Found Grace

America in 2017 is a perfect fit for the Lord’s phrase, “As it was in the days of Noah.” (Matthew 24:37) In light of our growing and institutionalized hostility towards civility, Biblical morality, and basic tolerance, it’s easy to give up on people.

Whether the people in question are individuals we care about or a culture we barely recognize anymore, their hardness of heart and commitment to self-destruction seem so powerful we want to hoist a white flag and declare them unreachable, too far gone, not worth the hassle. Uncle!

Noah has to have felt this in spades. For over a century the man built a place of safety no one believed in, much less wanted. It’s common to picture him simply constructed the ark, ignoring the mockers who must have had a field day shouting insults at him.

But it wasn’t that simple. The guy not only built, he preached. According to Peter, he was “a preacher of righteousness.” (II Peter 2:5) As such, he had the unenviable task of providing an escape no one desired and preaching a truth no one believed. DL Moody paints an aching picture of this in his terrific sermon Come into the Ark:

It was Noah’s testimony. Every time he drove a nail, it was a warning to them. Every sound of the hammer said. ‘I believe God.’  But he cannot get a man to come into that ark except his own family. He tells them the day of grace is closing, that worldly wealth is of no value, and that the ark is the only place of safety.

Yet no one heard, and after a century of ignored altar calls, few would blame Noah if he stopped preaching and just hunkered down to the task of finishing the boat, protecting his own family, and waiting out the days until judgment came.

Let’s not miss this critical point: Noah refused to usurp God. That is, he realized he, a limited man, had no right to give up on people, and that only God had authority to say, “Enough, finished, pack up.”

That’s why this brief sentence from Genesis stands out to me, breathing some fresh life into my own discouraged head: “The Lord shut the door.”

He alone shuts it. None of us is qualified to say, “He’s too far gone”, “It’s too much trouble”, “There’s no hope.” Because God, not we, has sole authority to seal the ark. Only He knows when; only He knows how.

Until then, we love our neighbors, care for our families, sow the seed of truth as wisdom and opportunity allow, water the seed that’s sown, pray like crazy, and wait for the Holy Spirit to do His part in the confidence of knowing we’ve done ours.

That’s kingdom living, and nothing in scripture exempts us from it just because people don’t respond as we hoped they would.

Perhaps that’s one of the ways Christianity turns worldly wisdom on its head. We don’t give up promoting what we offer just because it’s refused, because we don’t judge success or failure by the number of deals we close. We judge it – more important, He judges it – by the faithfulness with which we’ve stewarded truth, and the godliness we’ve shown while doing so.

Everything Old is New Again

Almost 50 years ago America was fractured, authority was despised, and the young generation seemed anything but promising. But amidst all the sex drugs and rock and roll, Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel held hands with his wife, prayed for the lost hippies he saw everywhere, and against all odds built a little ark in Costa Mesa which proved far too small for the hordes who entered it.

I was one of those charging into his place of safety, and my takeaway decades later is that if God hasn’t shut the door, then neither can we.

The Church has no permission to abdicate Her role, no matter how ungodly the times. Whether as a sign of judgment so no one can claim they didn’t have a chance, or as an invitation to souls who can still be convicted and responsive, sowing the Word of God remains the sower’s mandate.

What sort of ground it is, and what may spring from it, is for Him to know and us to pray about.

So please, Lord, as You did decades ago and quite regularly before that, shock us again with an unlikely, but not unwanted, harvest.


Gayle Odell | Feb 9, 2017

Thanks Joe. I realize after reading this I must pray for a harvest and do my part!

Jim | Feb 9, 2017

Joe, what you're saying is hard for a lot of people to swallow. We want our family and friends to go to heaven, but so many of them are rejecting God, or living in sin. I pray every day for my daughter and son-in-law, for gay nieces and nephews and friends, for others who just don't see the need. It hurts deeply to see especially our daughter and son-in-law not acknowledging a need for Christ. Our daughter is walking away from God and her husband has never known Him. I look forward to the return of Christ with mixed feelings. Knowing that people I care about are headed straight to Hell hurts so, so much. Please, God, draw them to you before it's too late.


Betty wolf | Feb 9, 2017

Good word for us today.....the tempter comes and feeds us lies that it's too's never too late! "His arm is not to short to save". Thank you for the encouragement in this message.

Pat | Feb 9, 2017

Thank you, I needed this right now... my oldest granddaughter, age 25, has decided she is a man. She is taking testosterone, changing her name, etc. etc. I have been upset since I found out on Christmas Day. I am expected to support her in her decision... it is difficult to make her understand that I love her but am concerned about the choice she has made for the rest of her life. I am being criticized for not feeling comfortable calling by her new male name... it is being taken as a rejection.

Ron Magno | Feb 9, 2017

Thanks for encouraging words. I do feel like giving up or slowing down at times. I needed to read this and be refreshed with motivation to keep building that "place of safety". Love

Randall Slack | Feb 10, 2017


Randall Slack | Feb 10, 2017

Overwhelmingly, we must reach out in love. We are not privileged to know who God has chosen (by choosing Him), so we are told to take the Gospel to the world. Too often we have expected others to fit into our mold of what a Christian is. The Jesus Movement of the late 60s and 70s challenged that (successfully, thank God) of which I am one. No one would of thought that long hair, beards, suits and ties would be able to accept each other. But it was only possible in Christ.

What will the next move of God look like? I don't know. But it will (like the last one) be centered around the Person of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Any "movement" not centered in that, is not an act of God.


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